The dead hooker in the hallway says it all: Sunny is back! After a season dealing with the very real possibility that the gang would be adding an infant to their numbers, and fears from some that the show was making a dangerous swerve toward the warm ’n’ fuzzies, it seemed only fitting that Sunny would begin its seventh season by diving decisively back into the pitch-black territory it’s most comfortable in. And my, do they do it with gusto.
After first watching “Frank’s Pretty Woman,” I was pretty confident that the gang was back with all guns blazing, mostly due to an absolutely amazing shock gag about halfway through involving Frank, Charlie’s digestive tract, and a very unfortunate woman that had me in tears and frankly, a little out of commission for the rest of the episode. (I won’t spoil it on the off chance that some readers may not have actually seen the episode yet—it’s just that good.) Upon second viewing, the season première is still hilarious—Sunny is still the most reliably fun half hour on TV—but structurally, it was kind of all over the place. Which isn’t that big of a big deal for a show like this, but its most satisfying episodes have been near-flawless efforts like last season’s “Who Got Dee Pregnant” which are as cleverly constructed as they are gag-filled.
But first, let’s address the salsa-stained elephant in the room: Ever since news got out that Rob McElhenney had gained 50 pounds for season seven—an impressive feat, to be sure—the big question was whether Fat Mac would be, well, funny. There’s a gradient of success on the “worth-it-or-not” scale for dramatic actors who change their physique for a role, but in comedy, if it doesn’t result in laughs, then you’re left left with little more than jacked-up health insurance premiums and a closet full of ill-fitting clothes. Between his ever-present bag of Mexican food and his insistence that he is not fat, but merely “cultivating mass,” Fat Mac definitely has some shining moments. But like many of the other great conceits in this episode, he isn’t given much time to develop, and unfortunately, Dennis’ effort to get him in shape are probably the least funny thread here (though it culminated nicely in the two of them sharing trashbag chimichangas while Mac shoots up insulin.) But since that is very real, very hard-earned fat on MacElhenney’s frame, I’m assuming it will get the screen time it deserves throughout the rest of the season.
The titular “pretty woman” of tonight’s episode is Roxy (Alanna Ubach,) Frank’s inebriated, gravel-voiced, crack-smoking, barely coherent hooker girlfriend. Combined with Fat Mac’s grand entrance, Frank’s intentions to “make that whore my wife” prompts a horrified Dennis to initiate a “second act” campaign for the gang to rehabilitate their image. (I nearly lost it when Dennis expressed his concern that the gang might become “the gross crew.”) While Dee tries to class up Frank’s special lady, Charlie tries to set Frank up with a woman who will love him for who he is—or at the very least isn’t a prostitute. In true Charlie form, his way of doing this makes little to no sense. He somehow manages to orchestrate a “Prince And The Pauper” scenario wherein Frank plays the chauffeur to Charlie’s wealthy Texan (“I made a decent penny in boiled denims”) who must entertain and ultimately win over Charlie’s date when he’s comes down with “a touch of consumption.”
Even before the plan flames out in spectacular form, Charlie’s date is less than charmed by Frank’s tales of getting bitten by crabs while hunting for bridge eggs, which leads to an almost touching declaration from a wounded Frank after her departure. “I love eggs, Charlie. And I love crabs. And I love boiling denim and banging whores. And I don’t care if anyone doesn’t like that about me, they don’t have to stick around.” I couldn’t help but feel like this was a declaration from the Sunny crew themselves, reassuring us that seven seasons on the air wasn’t about to make them go soft. Plus, there’s something about Sad Frank that gets me—he’s like a lost little cauliflower bobbing around and I can’t help but feel for him.
If there was one plot I wish we saw more of, it was the friendship that Dee and Roxy form. Roxy may be a real piece of shit, but when Dee realizes that she carries around stacks of 20s and gets paid hundreds of dollars to let men rub her feet, her revulsion turns on a dime to an almost star-struck wonder – Kaitlin Olson coos “I love you, Roxy!” about five octaves above her normal register, like a fifth grader bowing before the coolest girl in school. We all know Dee is a materialistic sycophant at this point, but it’s especially great to see her push it so hard that it comes full circle and she’s idolizing a crackwhore. Dee picks up some of Roxy’s more vulgar turns of phrase and is about to embark on a lucrative career as a “foot girl,” (Charlie: “All right, gross, whatever,”) when Roxy up and dies.
Poor, sweet Roxy. Had she not met her untimely end, she would have made a nice addition to the Sunny universe—like Rickety Cricket and the McPoyles, it’s always fun to see the gang confronted with people who are more disgusting than they are. But then we wouldn’t have gotten the cheerfully macabre scene in which Frank’s proposal quickly becomes Frank’s eulogy, with the same Pachelbel’s Canon on boombox for mood music—it’s as close to a reflection on life cycles as Sunny gets. And after the gang decides the best course of action is to dump the body in the hallway (“Roxy would have wanted it that way,”) we’re treated to that agonizingly long shot of the lifeless Roxy face down in the hall, complete with Roy Orbison on the soundtrack. Lord, but that’s dark, especially on the heels of a two-season renewal and a relatively heavy promotional campaign that almost guarantees there were a lot of curious newcomers tuning in tonight. But after six seasons, it’s clear the gang is doing something right. Why stop denim-boiling and whore-banging now?
- Longtime Sunny recapper David Sims has relinquished his post, and I hope to do him justice as I share in the filth with you fine people this season.
- “I went from a tiny twink to the musclebound freak you see before you.” I love that Mac still thinks that he was, at any point, a twink.
- Do you think that is actually just how Rob McElhenney pronounces “diabetes”?
- Now that season six has pretty much established that Dennis is in fact a full-on rapist, it looks like he’s on track to become an anorexic crack addict as well. Can’t wait!
- “They’re ugly as all hell, but I have a feeling I’m gonna like ’em a lot more when I’m high as shit on crack.” Take note, Tommy Bahama marketing department.
- Geoffrey Owens (from The Cosby Show, and the Donovan McNabb imposter from season three’s “The Gang Gets Invincible”) is back impersonating another professional athlete, this time Tiger Woods. The impatient “Just do it” as he tries to get Dee to take off her shoes was a nice touch.
- “Shut up, baby dick.”